Phrases Every Traveler Should Know

Language barriers when traveling can be tough, but there’s an easy solution. Learning a few key expressions in the language of your destination can make a great first impression on the locals that you meet. We’ve already got you covered on French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Japanese.

You don’t have to have perfect pronunciation or be fluent, but it can make all the difference. Before your next adventure, take the time to learn–or at least look up and save to your phone–the following phrases. We bet that you’ll use them wherever you go:

1. Hello and Goodbye

Being able to start or end any conversation in a country’s native language is the best way to make a good first and last impression. Luckily, Italian’s ‘ciao’ can be used almost anywhere as both a greeting and a salutation, if you freeze up in the moment.

  • French: Bonjour / Au revoir
  • German: Hallo / Auf Wiedersehen
  • Spanish: Hola / Chau
  • Chinese: 你好 / 再见  (Pronunciation: Ni Hao / Zai Jian)
  • Japanese:  こんにちは。/  さようなら。(Pronunciation: kon’nichiwa / sayōnara)


2. I Would Like…

This highly useful phrase can be used in many everyday situations: ordering in restaurants, bars, markets, shops, and more. It is recommended to learn this phrase rather than ‘I want’, which can sound rude.

  • French: Je voudrais…
  • German: Ich möchte …
  • Spanish: Quisiera…
  • Chinese: 我想… (Pronunciation: Wo Xiang…)
  • Japanese:きっぷをください。(Pronunciation: [object] o kudasai)


3. Please, Thank You & I’m Sorry

Politeness is key when communicating in a different country. People are much more likely to be forgiving if you use please and thank you. Apologizing is also a handy phrase to know, in case you bump into someone on the street or accidentally step on someone’s toe on the subway.

  • French: S’il vous plait / Merci / Pardon
  • German: Bitte / Danke / Tut mir leid
  • Spanish: Por favor / Gracias / Lo siento
  • Chinese: 请 / 谢谢 / 对不起  (Pronunciation: Qing / Xie Xie / Dui Bu Qi)
  • Jap`anese: おねがいします / ありがとうございます。/ すみませんでした。(Pronunciation:  Onegai shimasu / Arigatou gozaimasu / Sumimasen deshita)


4. Where Is The Restroom?

No matter where or when you travel, you’ll need this phrase.

  • French: Où sont les toilettes ?
  • German: Wo ist die Toilette?
  • Spanish: ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Chinese: 厕所在哪儿?(Pronunciation: Ce Suo Zai Na’er?)
  • Japanese: おてあらいはどこですか。(Pronunciation: Otéarai wa doko desuka)


5. My Name Is…

Introducing yourself to locals, tour guides, or anyone you meet is an easy friendly way to make conversation and shows that you’ve made an effort to learn another language, even if it’s only a short sentence.

  • French: Je m’appelle…
  • German: Ich heiße…
  • Spanish: Me llamo…
  • Chinese: 我的名字叫… (Pronunciation: Wo De Ming Zi Jiao…)
  • Japanese: わたしのなまえは [name] です (Pronunciation: Watashi no namae wa [name] desu)


6. Call A Doctor

In case of an emergency, it’s important to be able to ask for a doctor for you or for someone else. It’s also helpful to learn the 911 equivalent for the countries you are visiting.

  • French: Appelez un médecin
  • German: Rufen Sie einen Arzt
  • Spanish: Llama a un médico
  • Chinese: 给医生打电话 (Pronunciation: Gei Yi Sheng Da Dian Hua)
  • Japanese: いしゃをおねがいします。(Pronunciation: Isha o onegaishimasu)


7. Do You Speak [Native Language]?

If you are having a very difficult time communicating or in a time crunch, this may be the phrase to start with. This way, as soon as someone says yes, you can effectively find whatever you are looking for!

  • French: Est-ce que vous parlez…
  • German: Sprechen Sie…
  • Spanish: ¿Hablas…?
  • Chinese: 你会说…[language] 吗?(Pronunciation: Wo Hui Shuo…Ma?)
  • Japanese: [Language] をはなせますか。(Pronunciation: [Language] o hanasé masuka?)


Happy Traveling!

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